Is there such a thing as a ‘Healthy” fast food meal? Well, it depends on who you ask.
Today many would say “no”, as there are far too many meals that are well over 1000 calories, as you can see by the list below.
These menu items are also stacked with saturated fats, sugars, and salt. Check out this list of artery-clogging, inflammation causing, insulin-spiking menu items.
Still, In The End, We Are A Fast Food Nation.
The bottom line is that we all turn to fast food at points, so you might as well know which fast food choices will limit the damage from:
- Excess sugar and fat (not including healthy fats of course).
- Resulting food-related inflammation.
We checked out the lunch/dinner and breakfast fare at dozens of on-the-go restaurants — from Chick-fil-A to Wendy’s — to find some of the healthiest items they offer.
The foods we picked all pack less than 500 calories, are fairly low in saturated fat and cholesterol and include 15 or more grams of protein to help keep you feeling full, and helps your blood sugar remain more stable.
Our main caveat with most of these items, however, is that they pack a lot of salt, so you’d probably want to watch your sodium intake on the days you consume them.
Here is our list (in no defined order, of the best meals you can get on the road without too much guilt and too much damage to your body and health.
Chipotle — Chicken Burrito Bowl with brown rice and pinto beans, no cheese or sour cream (500 calories)
Chipotle has lots of fresh, healthier options. In general, nix the cheese and sour cream — an occasional dollop of guac is fine, since it’s packed with healthy fats — and go for bowls versus burritos, like this one, to save on added carbs. This bowl has:
- 500 calories — not too low, not too high.
- 42 grams of protein — a hefty amount fill you up with longer-term energy without crashes.
- 13.5 grams of fat — a little on the high side.
- 57 grams of carbs — but decent quality carbs.
- 805 milligrams of sodium — a little less than half of your recommended daily allowance.
Starbucks — Spinach, Feta, and Cage-Free Egg-White Breakfast Wrap (290 calories)
While the yummy pastries at Starbucks are sure to catch your eye mid-afternoon, sugary muffins and scones can leave you “hangry”. Starbucks’ hot breakfast items, like this wrap, are likely a healthier, more filling meal, with:
- 290 calories — pretty low as far as lunch goes.
- 19 grams of protein — a pretty good amount.
- 10 grams of fat — not too low, not too high.
- 33 grams of carbs — Again decent quality carbs.
- 830 milligrams of sodium — just under half your daily allowance.
In-N-Out — Cheeseburger with onion, ketchup, and mustard, no spread (480 calories)
If you want to stay under 500 calories at In & Out, Swap the special sauce for some ketchup and mustard, and opt for a regular burger instead of a Double-Double.
- 480 calories — not too high, not too low. You can reduce more if you opt for no cheese (subtract 80 calories).
- 22 grams of protein — a good amount to strengthen muscles and fill you up.
- 27 grams of fat — on the high side.
- 41 grams of carbs — about 14-40% of your recommended daily allowance.
- 1,080 milligrams of sodium — close to half your recommended daily allowance.
Chick-fil-A — Grilled Chicken Cool Wrap (340 calories)
The “home of the original chicken sandwich” spiced up its menu last year, adding a smattering of healthy fare like this option, which has:
- 350 calories — pretty low as far as lunch items go.
- 37 grams of protein — Great for keeping you fuller longer.
- 14 grams of fat — not too low, not too high.
- 29 grams of carbs — Decent level, and decent quality carb profile.
- 960 milligrams of sodium — about half your recommended daily allowance.
Wendy’s — Power Mediterranean Chicken Salad, full size (480 calories)
Not all Wendy’s salads are healthy (the Spicy Caesar Chicken Salad, for example, packs 720 calories and 43 grams of fat), but a couple are winners in most areas, including this Mediterranean chicken salad.
- 480 calories — on the low side.
- 43 grams of protein.
- 16 grams of fat — on the medium-high side, but not a deal-breaker.
- 42 grams of carbs — pretty high, because with the dressing about a third comes from sugar. You can control this though by using less.
- 1,200 milligrams of sodium — more than half your daily allowance.
Shake Shack — Single hamburger or Chicken Dog (360 or 300 calories)
While it’s known for its towering Shack Stacks and crispy fries, this chain has some lighter options too. The small cheeseburger has:
- 420 calories — you can reduce that by 80 calories by getting it without cheese.
- 26 grams of protein.
- 17 grams of fat — decent for a burger.
- 25 grams of carbs — also decent for a burger.
- 460 milligrams of sodium — pretty low for a burger.
The Chicken Dog has:
- 300 calories — pretty low as far as lunch items go.
- 26 grams of protein.
- 11 grams of fat — not too high, not too low.
- 32 grams of carbs — not too high, not too low.
- 970 milligrams of sodium — a little under half your daily allowance.
McDonald’s — Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich (380 calories).
While I wasn’t impressed by the taste of the Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich, it’s definitely one of the healthier choices at McDonald’s, since the meat is grilled rather than fried. Here’s how the sandwich stacks up:
- 380 calories.
- 37 grams of protein — a hefty amount.
- 7 grams of fat — Very good!
- 44 grams of carbs — Comes mainly from the artesian bun, and is somewhat high.
- 1,100 milligrams of sodium — about half your daily allowance.
Taco Bell — Chicken Burrito Supreme, “Fresco Style” (340 calories).
No longer just the land of Chalupas and Crunchwrap Supremes, Taco Bell has expanded its healthier offerings with the Fresco menu, which essentially swaps the sour cream and cheese for salsa. Here’s how the Fresco burrito with chicken shapes up:
- 340 calories.
- 19 grams of protein. On the lower side but not bad.
- 8 grams of fat — Very acceptable.
- 49 grams of carbs — mainly from the wrap.
- 1,060 milligrams of sodium — close to half your recommended daily allowance.
Panera — Strawberry Poppyseed Salad with Chicken (340 calories)
Panera has plenty of good nutritious items, at least for lunch. The only bone we have to pick with this salad is that because of the dressing and fruit, it contains a hefty amount of sugar, at 20 grams. Otherwise, here’s how it stacks up:
- 430 calories — A bit high for a salad.
- 25 grams of protein — A good amount for a salad.
- 13 grams of fat — a moderate amount.
- 31 grams of carbs — a moderate amount.
- 280 milligrams of sodium — low, especially compared with the other items on this list.
McDonald’s — Egg McMuffin (300 calories)
The classic Egg McMuffin is still a great choice if you are on the road. Here is the breakdown:
- 300 calories — on the lower side if you’re eating it for lunch.
- 18 grams of protein — Decent quality protein mainly from the egg.
- 12 grams of fat — on the higher side, but not a deal-breaker.
- 30 grams of carbs — fairly low.
- 730 milligrams of sodium — about a third of your recommended daily allowance.
Dunkin’ Donuts — Egg-White Veggie Flatbread (280 calories)
For a chain that specializes in deep-fried dough, Dunkin’ Donuts has a few healthy breakfast options, like its Egg-White Veggie Flatbread, which has:
- 330 calories — pretty low overall.
- 18 grams of protein — a good amount for longer-term fullness.
- 14 grams of fat — not too high, not too low.
- 33 grams of carbs — about 11-20% of your recommended daily allowance.
- 570 milligrams of sodium — about a quarter of your daily allowance.
Papa John’s — Garden Fresh Pizza, two medium slices (400 calories)
One of the least healthy things about most pizza-chain fare is the high sodium content. But if you’re a pizza fan going with a veggie pizza significantly reduces the damage. 2 medium slices of the garden pizza contain:
- 400 calories.
- 16 grams of protein. Not bad for a veggie pizza.
- 14 grams of fat — not too low, not too high.
- 54 grams of carbs — High but hey its pizza.
- 960 milligrams of sodium — just under half your daily allowance.
Pizza Hut — Garden Party Thin-Crust Pizza, two medium slices (460 calories).
As part of its recent attempt to overhaul its brand, Pizza Hut began offering several options with more fresh veggies and popular toppings like Sriracha. But like other pizza chains, most offerings are high in sodium and carbs. 2 Medium slices of the Garden Party pizza has:
- 460 calories.
- 18 grams of protein.
- 18 grams of fat. Not a deal-breaker.
- 60 grams of carbs — pretty high; again its pizza…
- 900 milligrams of sodium — a little under half your daily allowance.
Burger King — BK Veggie Burger, no mayo (310 calories)
Many vegetarians were excited when Burger King announced its veggie option. Overall at this restaurant, you should follow same rules we highlighted for ordering at McDonald’s: avoid mayo and fried options, and go for sandwiches instead of meal packages. Here’s the BK Veggie Burger lowdown:
- 310 calories — pretty low as far as fast food items go.
- 22 grams of protein — a good amount for a veggie patty.
- 7 grams of fat — excellent.
- 42 grams of carbs — about 14% of your daily allowance.
- 990 milligrams of sodium — close to half your daily allowance.
Subway — 6-inch Turkey Breast Sub, no cheese, add avocado (340 calories)
“Eating fresh” is pretty easy at this chain, where you can get lean meats or just fresh veggies on whole-wheat bread with a variety of low-calorie, low-fat dressings. The turkey and avocado has:
- 340 calories — pretty low.
- 18 grams of protein — A decent level for a 6″ sub.
- 9 grams of fat — not too low, not too high.
- 49 grams of carbs — about 16 – 25% of your daily allowance.
- 670 milligrams of sodium — not bad; much lower than competing items at Chipotle or Taco Bell.
In the end, the choice is yours.
The good thing is there are lots of options that keep you ahead in the tough world of fast food.
If you want to pick even better, a study conducted in 2017 by the Natural Resources Defense Council looked at the best food sourcing policies of fast food chains.
The study looked at how fast food chains sourced their meats and vegetables and the level of quality that was sought for our consumption. The chains were graded from A – F, with A being the best of course.
The Best Fast Food Chains By Their Sourcing Practices and Quality.
Better knowledge always leads to better decisions. Best of luck with your fast food choices in 2018 and beyond.
Thanks for reading, and as always to your wellness!
Happy Body Store News
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